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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses PNM supporters in Mt Pleasant on Thursday. (Image courtesy PNM Tobago)

Camille McEachnie

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says he was prepared to close the inter-island border between Trinidad and Tobago if it became necessary to protect citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic.

His disclosure came hours after it was revealed the country had recorded its first case of the UK COVID-19 variant on January 21.

Delivering the feature address at a People’s National Movement campaign meeting for the Tobago House of Assembly elections in Mt Pleasant on Thursday night, Rowley said they were weighing the idea to protect Tobagonians.

“We took the decision that because Tobago … is an island with a small population, we would move heaven and earth to try and preserve the health of the people of Tobago,” he told supporters in Mt Pleasant.

“When we did not know enough about this virus … all we had to go on was what we were seeing in Bergamo in Italy… and while I called the nations to a day of prayer … I had to decide that if we are facing what the Italians are facing and the only defence we had in Tobago is to tell Tobagonians we were closing the border between Trinidad and Tobago.”

He said while the inter-island border was kept open, it became necessary to close the international border and manage nationals returning home.

The Prime Minister said this was a “good decision” and cries to reopen the borders were unfounded, noting the Government’s critics will be the same ones to say “the Government failed to manage” the situation if they we’re to open the borders and the virus were to overrun the country.

He said the government’s management of COVID-19 showed the PNM is the best party to control Tobago during the pandemic.

Also speaking to the media after touring the APT James earlier in the day, Rowley said he was “worried” about the new strain of the disease.

“I have been worried from day one and I continue to be worried because you would have seen on international news how easy it is to go from a comfort zone to calamity.”